We have come to believe that before we can heal the planet, we need to heal ourselves and that only once we as individuals make the choice to alter our relationship with Planet Earth, can we begin to reverse much of the environmental destruction we see before us. A new narrative is now emerging in many parts of the world at the convergence of human awakening, explosive technological advancement and the realization that we need to return to the wisdom of nature’s great master plan.
– Dave Varty | December 2018
The Londolozi experience during 2018 continued to evolve and is now consciously moving in a new direction toward bringing our guests closer to nature and themselves. This search for a new way of being began at Londolozi some years ago as we set about changing our relationship with the land and the place where we all work. In the belief that more is less, and that our guests increasingly prefer elegant simplicity rather than opulent luxury, we undertook a lengthy introspective contemplation as to how we might lessen our operational footprint on the land, starting with the refurbishment of Varty Camp.
The decision which we made to undertake a low-impact yet elegant refurbishment turned out beyond our expectations and was a very cathartic experience as we were not required in any way to disturb the land or increase the footprint of the building. The brief was to modernise only the inner workings of the existing buildings and, to our great surprise, guests enthusiastically embraced this new approach, many of them concurring with our belief that the originality and authenticity of this sacred camp should not be disturbed.
During the Varty Camp refurbishment period, we also had occasion to rework other existing buildings and set about converting an old building into a modernised Living Boutique. Our intention once again was to reduce the development footprint and to create a thoughtful retail experience which allows our guests to make the connection between what they purchase and how the effects of the purchase translate into tangible social upliftment and economic regeneration in the region. This policy forms part of our new consciousness relating to careful use of finite resources and the importance of integrating (to our longstanding belief) the benefits of tourism with the local economy.
During 2018 we re-configured and expanded the Photographic Studio facility that we have always pioneered. Guests returning from a game drive now have multi-opportunities to work “in studio” with our in-residence Lightroom experts, editing and enhancing the pictures which they have taken that same day on their safari. Guests have been enthralled with the results, often selecting their very best shots to be blown up into canvas masterpieces for decorating their homes around the world. Their enjoyment and sense of achievement is infectious and reminds us all why we so love being in the photographic safari business.
The seminal break-through moment for 2018 was, however, the envisioning and commissioning of Healing House. We created a sacred space, shielded by ancient Ebony trees, which emits a feeling of stillness and peace and has had a quite extraordinary impact on our guests’ experiences. The Healing House treatments and the reaction from the guests confirms that Londolozi is now on a new trajectory towards delivering deeper meaning and purpose to the safari experience. Silent and close to nature.
The Healing House experience dovetailed well with this year’s newly introduced retreat programs. This included the first ever Healing House Retreat, a five-day experience limited to six people with an incredible combination of restorative healing house treatments and a deep nature connection out on game drive. Other retreat offerings include the longstanding Africa STAR (Self-Transformational Adventure Retreats) led by Dr. Martha Beck which paved the way for other retreats such as, the Return to the Heart retreat led by Koelle Simpson and finally the Track Your Life retreat led by Boyd Varty. In all cases participants described the effects as life-changing. This would suggest that increasingly discerning international travellers are in search of something in combination with Safari, which the wilderness in Africa is able to deliver.
The 2018 rainy season has been less kind to us as we continue to feel the impact of an ongoing dry cycle, particularly as it relates to the high elephant numbers passing through Londolozi. Many of you would of course be aware that dry conditions favour exceptional game viewing, particularly in regard to predators and notably wild dog and leopard. In fact, during 2018 over 13 leopard cub births were recorded and on numerous occasions up to three packs of wild dogs, exceeding 30 in number, were being viewed simultaneously on the property.
Many of you will have over the years heard me speak of the Transfrontier Peace Park which was a remarkable step forward for our country when in 2002 the then presidents Mandela, Mugabe and Chissano signed a Treaty, agreeing to the creation of a vast game reserve totalling six million Acres and spanning three countries. Included in the terms of the Treaty was an agreement to symbolically remove the long standing military fence which had divided Mozambique and South Africa for decades, allowing once again for wildlife to roam freely as they had done prior to the turn of the previous century.
On the 5th of December this year, yet another major milestone in conservation was achieved at the signing of the Cooperative Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area Agreement. This agreement provides for all private reserves, neighbours and land owners bordering Kruger National Park, including neighbours in Mozambique, to cooperate towards a common cause of conservation, regional economic regeneration and ecosystem protection.
We pay tribute to South African National Parks for its leadership and fortitude in bringing all parties together to achieve this milestone agreement representing a giant leap forward for conservation and the expansion of land under wildlife. The creation of a Transfrontier wildlife free-movement zone has now been expanded to 7.5 million acres in size. This is inclusive arrangement incorporating all land owners and stakeholders is an achievement unique to Africa, suggesting that future meaningful wildlife range expansion could become a central tenant of sustainable development in Africa.
The yearly round up would not be complete without a mention of the remarkable progress being made by the Good Work Foundation (GWF). As its founding investor and patron, Londolozi has born witness this year to the completion of four more satellite learning centres located in the villages adjacent to the reserve. GWF now provides access to digital learning to over 6000 students per month.
This has been an amazing collaboration effort between member lodges of Sabi Sand, GWF and the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust, all of whom have come together to finance and support the establishment of these satellite learning centres around the reserve. Last year it was a dream; this year it is a reality and remains a work in progress. We believe that the founding tenants of learning and love which are now being delivered by these learning centres bodes well for building capacity with the youth in the region thereby creating an environment for long-term collaboration and expansion of the reserve ensuring that the benefits of tourism are shared on an equitable basis by all who live in the region.
To everything there is a season… as Shan and I contemplate a third year in our elevated status of grandparents, we continue to be enthralled daily as we witness the fifth generation of our family beginning to navigate life in the bush. The busy routine begins around 5:30 on a glorious summer morning as our young charges feed the kip kips (Natal Spurfowl). This is then followed by close encounters with raiding monkeys intent on stealing the rusks. The morning’s activities include a bowl of porridge before our young charges make their way to the village creche where we are given a window into a South Africa we all dream of. Many little South Africans living and playing in harmony together.
In closing from your Londolozi family in Africa, we wish you all an enjoyable festive season and trust that during 2019 you may find some time to visit us so that we may introduce you to the many new experiences which have now been created.